T H E    P E A K S

Having left camp at 6:30 a.m., we met at least three expeditions turning back because of the cloud cover.

The total vertical ascent from trailhead to peak on Challenger is just over a mile, something like 6,300 feet.  You do about 4,000 of that coming to high camp over about seven miles and four hours of hiking.  Then you get to take the ridge, where you pretty much do the other 2,000 feet in the space of one mile.  Hence the grade.  Thankfully, by this point, you're fairly well acclimated.  

Challenger peak, seen from the ridge.  This ridge is apparently considered fairly treacherous, so you end up going down around the back side of it (as opposed to traversing its spine), which, itself, delves into some dicey class 3 stuff.

Dan and me on Challenger.

Jim, Ken, and Darren on Challenger. 

This is the beginning of what's known as Kit Carson Avenue.  Basically, you descend about 1,000 feet off of Challenger (joy!) and then head back up this thing.  It's a fairly wide ledge system.  Here you can see that things began to fog up again at the lower altitude, and that's the previous day's sleet still on the ground. 

At the prow.  This is the jumping-off point of KC Ave.  We're poring over our maps here.  We should have taken a left from where Ken and I were at this point and ascended up one of the two gullies below, per the excellent summit log of Aaron Johnson on SummitPost.com.

Instead we backtracked to a spot that Jim found which seemed to be a bit of a shortcut.  This worked well for the ascent, but would prove impossible to retrace on the descent.

This is the initial ridge ascent to Kit Carson.  There had been much speculation by Adam and me as to what actual Class 3 climbing entailed.  KC was my first bona fide Class 3 peak, and I can tell you this was the C3 terrain, right here.

It's not really possible to adequately capture with a camera what's at work here, but suffice it to say that the grade is such that you're constantly using your arms as much as your legs for the 30-60 minutes required by this piece of the climb.  You're not simply hiking here; you are climbing in the literal sense.

More C3...

Darren, Dan, and Ken on Kit Carson.  We were all a little done in, so it was hard to look triumphant.  We mainly tried to catch some rays and stay out of the breeze.

KC peak shot.

The Crestone twins: Peak (to the right) and Needle (to the left).  This is the primary view to the south from KC.  Ken and I are talking about making this our 2004 venture.  The traverse between the two is an infamous C4 route.

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